Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) – Movie Review

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Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

One thing I have noticed about many older dinosaur films. If the studio paid for a well written script and good actors, it didn’t have much left for good dinosaurs. This is a finely acted period piece set in the1880s, with interesting dialogue, characters, plot, and conflicts. Naturally this is more of a fantasy/adventurer movie, originally penned by Jules Verne, but there are dinosaurs in it, so I file it within the realm of dinosaur films.

James Mason plays an outstanding part as Sir Oliver Lindenbrook a headstrong scientist on the verge of a very important discovery. He is curt and brash, mostly because he feels time consuming formalities only stand in the way of discovery. When he is forced to take another scientist’s widow on the expedition he has no qualms about expressing his dissatisfaction with the journey to center earth covercapabilities of the opposite sex. Lindenbrook is proven wrong by the end of the film as lady Carla Goteborg (Arlene Dahl) becomes a major asset to the group. A young Pat Boone plays the part of Alexander McKuen (Alec), Lindenbrook’s nephew and assistant.

The dinos are Rhinoceros Iguanas with sail fins attached to their backs. I must say, of all the reptile stand-ins for dinosaurs in film, these are the best. They truly look like dimetrodons. (And you can’t even see where they stapled the sailbacks to the reptile skin, lol.) The Red Dragon at the end is a Tegu with no such appliances but plays a rather slow and dull part in the film.

The first time I had seen this I was a boy of about 8 years old. I will admit that most of my enjoyment of this film is nostalgic and I have no idea what a person watching it for the first time today would think of it. I’d say if they didn’t have an appreciation for 1950s sci-fi/fantasy/adventure or Jules Verne, they wouldn’t think much of it. The film is very British in feel and style (much like the Lost World 1960 remake) which is also an aspect I appreciate.

I also feel good that science is applauded and held in high esteem in this film. Today it seems that whenever a scientist makes a statement, he is ridiculed by counter scientists working for oil and gas companies, or by creationists that claim all the scientific evidence was left in the ground by the devil to confuse mankind. Global warming is a real problem and fracking (fracturing the earth’s bedrock to release natural gas) will lead to more and more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions each year, destabilizing the earth’s crust. For every action there is an equal reaction, and all that. But that’s a debate for another day and a different blog.

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Fun Facts:
Some underground sequences were filmed at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

It was nominated for 3 academy awards, Set/art decoration, Special Effects, and sound effects in 1960.

Rhinoceros Iguanas are found mostly on the island of Haiti and Dominican Republic. They grow to 4ft long.

Dimetrodons are not actually dinosaurs. They are Pelycosaurs which lived in a time before dinosaurs in the Permian Era of earth’s history.

More dinosaur film reviews can be found at this page: Dinosaur Film Reviews Overview